MenÆs College: MVC joins select company

In the past 20 years ù the modern era of college soccer ù only two conferences have sent more than one representative to the NCAA semifinals in the same year. One is the Atlantic Coast Conference, which has thrice seen two of its teams among the final four. The only other league to accomplish that feat since 1980 is the Missouri Valley Conference.

The who?

Many may have asked that question before this year, but with SMU and Creighton each giving NCAA champion UConn a formidable challenge at the 2000 College Cup, the MVC will not be anonymous for long.

Naming schools such as Southwest Missouri State, Drake and Belmont does not provoke instant recognition in soccer circles, nor do nicknames such as Horned Frogs, Purple Aces and Golden Hurricane ring familiar.

Yet those six teams make up half of the newly expanded MVC.

SMU soccer moved from the Western Athletic Conference to the MVC this year, as did Tulsa. Texas Christian and Belmont joined for just this season. SMUÆs decision was based solely on soccer; the schoolÆs other teams remain in the WAC.

ôThe WAC was only five teams and there was so much traveling,ö Hyndman said. ôIt was very expensive, so we said æHey, if weÆre going to spend that kind of money, letÆs get more games in and get into a better conference.Æö

Creighton received its ninth consecutive NCAA bid this year and made it to the 1996 semifinals. Aside from the Bluejays, however, the MVC was 0-4 in NCAA tournament games before this season. Southwest Missouri StateÆs only loss in 1999 was to Alabama-Birmingham in the first round.

That national media attention originates on the two coasts does not help the lower Midwest schools of the MVC. Neither does the fact that none of the 12 schools are Division I powers in the two most-publicized sports, football and basketball. But the latter also works in favor of the three MVC teams, such as Creighton, which doesnÆt have a football program and thus places a higher emphasis on soccer.

ôItÆs funny, even late this season, a reporter asked me if I was thinking about getting in a better league,ö Simon said. ôAnd right now, if you look at the top four or five teams ... theyÆre not that far off from any league. And the teams that are below that have made a great commitment to the sport now ù to building facilities, to being fully funded ù so weÆre talking about a league thatÆs really growing and developing.ö

by Soccer America associate editor Will Kuhns

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